Washington DC is known for being the center of the country’s decision making and is on the border of what some consider to be “the South.” It’s also a place where our nation pays tribute to the people who paved the way for the future we have today, including the soldiers of foreign wars and former presidents and leaders. Visiting Washington DC’s memorials is one of the best ways to experience the city, especially as all are free to visit and you can see them at any time of day or night. I recommend seeing at least one at sunset for the full experience without the crowds. Most monuments are within walking distance of each other around the National Mall.
The Washington Monument is an imposing obelisk dedicated to first president George Washington. Construction began in 1848, but stopped from 1854 to 1877 due to lack of funds and the Civil War. It was finally completed in 1884 and was at the time the world’s largest structure. What is interesting about the monument is that it has two colors of white, as it is made up of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss. Structural damage has left the monument covered in scaffolding for the last year and the viewing platform closed to the public, but it is set to reopen May 12, 2014.
The Lincoln Memorial, dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln, is perhaps the most well-known memorial, as it has been depicted in countless films and television shows, as well as the five dollar note and penny coin. It contains a Doric-style temple, which houses the famous sculpture of the seated president, and sits along the reflecting pool. It was here that Martin Luther King Jr. made his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
In honor of President Thomas Jefferson, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a stately Neoclassical building with a stunning rotunda, featuring a bronze sculpture of the visionary. It also has etchings into the walls of his more notable speeches and statements.
As the city’s newest memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. was not without controversy. The MLK Memorial took years of planning and was the first to an African-American on the National Mall. There were problems with the materials chosen and the incorrect paraphrase of King’s words on the side of the sculpture, but that has all been remedied. The sculpture gives the impression that King is coming out of a block of stone.
Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial
The Vietnam War Veteran’s Memorial was the result of a 1980 contest to create a suitable memorial for the men and women who fought in the Vietnam War. Out of the nearly 1,500 designs submitted, the one chosen was by Maya Ling Yin, a student at Yale University. It is made up of two gabbro walls that come to an “L’ shape. On the shiny surface are etched the names the fallen service members. It’s common to see visitors with a piece of paper and a crayon or piece of chalk, where they rub the names of a family member into it.
Korean War Memorial
One of the lesser-known memorials is the Korean War Veterans Memorial, located south of the Reflecting Pool. The memorial was dedicated in 1995 and features stainless steel sculptures of soldiers, each representing a branch of the armed forces that lost lives in the war.